Monday, November 9, 2015

Peru 2014 Day 1: June 23rd- We Fly Like a Bird

Peru 2014 Index

This trip was a long time in coming.

Visiting my homeland was always easy and frequent. Depending on bridge traffic, an hour or so jaunt put us at the Bronx Zoo.

As for returning to Rosa’s homeland of Peru, Anabelle had never been, and discounting a medical emergency trip a year before this one (many aspects of which would be happily forgotten) Rosa hadn’t been back since before we were married.  My only trip there to visit her was a couple of months before her official cross continental move.

Clearly a trip south was overdue.  Rosa’s mom (Abuelita) hadn’t been up to visit us in a while either.  She came to stay for well over a month, forming stronger bonds with her - now far more fluent in Spanish- granddaughter. Note that her Hijo-in-law was still almost completely non-fluent, sucking at languages as he does.  However, that didn’t keep the two of them from getting along swimmingly, through a large amount of comprehension he’d absorbed through osmosis, and general random gesturing.

We flew back home with her and spent over two weeks in Rosa’s childhood (and initial adulthood) home.  Considering I barely make sense in my country, any hopes of blending were pretty slim.  To avoid looking completely target like, Rosa suggested I not wear any loud and unusual shirts or shoes.  Realizing that discounted almost my entire wardrobe, we compromised on my usual t-shirts and a new pair of black converse sneakers alternating with beat up leather boots.  I may have erred too heavily on the side of non-theft-desirable footwear.

With only a single direct flight in the afternoon each day, we believed arising at Stupid O’clock in the morning wasn’t needed for this trip. Considering the massive amount of final organizing, shutting down and general running around we did when my Mom showed up to bring us to the airport, perhaps we should have gotten up at that time.

Anabelle bid Grandma goodbye (Thanx Mom!) and we played the line games at Newark airport.  Because we live close enough to New York City, crowd management was handled well and we got to the gate with more than enough time to buy some snacks, gate check one bag and sit around staring at each other.  Of course, rest room breaks became needed right before boarding was called.  We should have been Group 2 because of signing up for the flier miles credit card to help swing the trip  but running off shifted us to about Group 2.7, still giving us relative ease of baggage stowage.

For some reason, no one took our “gate checked” bag until we hauled it in and up into the overhead compartment.  The attendant was rumpled, but not surprised it was forgotten as he pulled it back down the aisle.

Due to the inherent curviness of Mexico, the flight was straight south; the only time zone change coming from the rest of the world thinking Daylight Savings time is silly.  The trip was over seven hours. You know it’s a long flight in the days of massive cost cuts when they feed you twice in the air.  Anabelle watched two movies and several shows on her personal seat screen. She sat with Rosa and Abuelita who passed the time in a similar if much more anxious fashion.  I was in the row in front of them where I read a half dozen comic collections, and most of a book about Godzilla effects genius Eiji Tsuburaya.  We’re not what you’d call good inflight sleepers.

On the way down we remembered an avocado intended as a travel snack was abandoned sitting on the kitchen counter in our panicked preparations.

We landed, stretched, and pulled on coats. Our summer is their winter, though considering the wet and cold summer we had, and the inherent coastal mildness of Lima, there was less difference than anticipated.  I booted up my SmartPhone and was very happy to learn the preset conversion to get a signal down there had worked.  The only down side was my phone now spoke Spanish, greatly reducing my ability to use it.

Peru was nice enough to have giant signs in the bathrooms for arriving visitors, reminding them to please use the little garbage cans provided. This stems from the issue that placing any non-biologic; including toilet paper, down the hoooooole could destroy the entire country’s plumbing system.  Yes, my daughter was on a strong path to appreciate what she had in everyday life.

Customs had changed since Rosa’s last trip removing the last of the human interaction and becoming an automated conveyor belt/push button affair.

Either the streets were empty, or we were too tired to notice that we took our lives in our hands during the first cab ride bringing us to Rosa’s former home.  Friends of the family were waiting to remove the barricade like bar on the main door to allow easy entrance and luggage access from the street.

Quick phone calls were made to tell the folks back home we’d made it, and request avocado removal. (Thanx again Mom!)  Rosa set up Anabelle’s bed while we inflated the air mattress we’d be using.  Anabelle asked me to do a couple of Mad Libs with her while she settled down, but the only words I could think of were synonyms of “unconscious.”

We all collapsed from exhaustion shortly thereafter.

While we’re in the depths of sleep, this is probably a good junction to detail the layout of our South American home away from home.

In general, the apartment was decorated in Early Latin Grandmother.  That translates to pictures hanging in each room in equal quantities Jesus, Mary, other saints (with an emphasis on Pope John Paul II) and her Granddaughter.  There were also an even amount of religious items and cute animals on most of the available display spaces. 

The front door opened into the living room on the rare occasions it opened.  Being a first floor apartment in a port city, multiple locks and a large crossbar prevented that most of the time.  This location was also the reason metal bars were inside the thin paned windows instead of screens. The bars allowed the windows to remain open almost every day.  The location being largely bug free (ignoring the occasional meal time fly visits) allowed this as well. The climate was also largely “unpleasantness free.”  We were there mid-winter, and most days stayed around seventy degrees with usually no more than a ten degree drop at night. Summer shifts up some, but not into uncomfortable zones. This explains my wife’s impossibly tight tolerance band on environmental conditions. 

The living room shared an open area with the dining room, containing all manner of cool looking old Peruvian furniture and dinner ware.  The rest of the apartment branched off on the right side of the long hallway that opened opposite the front door. 

The first room was the kitchen.  Abuelita got rid of her full stove when her girls moved out. She does very well for herself on the two burner range connected to the propane tank under the sink, thank you very much. Off of the kitchen was a small open roofed patio area, used for attractive potted plant growing, laundry drying, and as the main way in and out of the place. 
The side door had miniature versions of the locks and bar of the front. It opened into an alley with a locked gate at the street side.  That alley reminded me a great deal of old photos of where my Mother grew up in the Bronx.  No wonder it took me so long to find someone – in order to discover a woman who grew up in what looked like the Old Italian neighborhoods my family history ties me to, I had to go to another continent.

The bedrooms were the last two rooms.  Abuelita’s was first, and we three shared what used to be Rosa and her sister’s room at the end of the hall. 
Anabelle slept in Rosa’s old bed (Awwwwwwwwwwwww) while Rosa and I shared the queen sized air mattress we somehow got through customs with its inflator pump without having to spend hours under heat lamps in separate little rooms.

The bathroom was next to the patio, and contained a shower, sink, toilet, and of course a healthy stock of bottled water for Anabelle and I to brush our teeth with.  I was determined to protect our stomachs at all costs.  Rosa had no problems brushing with the water she grew up with. In retrospect, I probably should have done that and made some smarter choices in other areas to reach this goal later on.

There was also a small gas heater next to the shower.  This is because almost the entire country had no hot water. If the pressure was available (which happened on occasion) the heater could generate hot showers for a limited period. This led us to a few high speed “Shower Conga Lines” and (along with several other elements, as travel abroad often does) generated a healthy respect for her home country in Anabelle.

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